United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
BARRY A. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.
Johnene Martin Salsedo ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act ("The Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act.
The Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings. ECF No. 8. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
Plaintiff protectively filed her disability application on May 3, 2012. (Tr. 10, 111-116). In her application, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to back, neck disc disease, bipolar, anxiety, and depression. (Tr. 149). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of May 3, 2012. (Tr. 10). This application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 10, 55-69).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her denied application, and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 70-72). On June 4, 2013, the ALJ held an administrative hearing on Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 25-54). Plaintiff was present at this hearing and was represented by counsel, Michael Angel. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert ("VE") Michael Gartman testified at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-seven (37) years old, which is defined as a "younger person" under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c), and had a high school education with two years of college. (Tr. 28-29).
Following the hearing, on June 27, 2013, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (Tr. 10-20). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity ("SGA") since her application date of May 3, 2012. (Tr. 12, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: history of degenerative disc disease of the neck and back, history of residual radiculopathy, bipolar disorder I, major depressive disorder, borderline personality disorder, obesity, and history of marijuana use. (Tr. 12, Finding 2). However, the ALJ also determined Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 ("Listings"). (Tr. 12, Finding 3).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 13-18, Finding 4). First, the ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC for sedentary work but could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and is limited to only superficial contact with the public. Id.
The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work ("PRW") and found Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. (Tr. 18, Finding 5). The ALJ then considered whether Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 18-19, Finding 9). The VE testified at the administrative hearing on this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following occupations: (1) lens inserter with 28, 000 such jobs in the United States and 600 such jobs in Arkansas; (2) table worker with 100, 000 such jobs in the United States and 160 such jobs in Arkansas; and (3) final assembler with 28, 000 such jobs in the United States and 500 such jobs in Arkansas. Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform this other work, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from since May 3, 2012. (Tr. 19, Finding 10).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council's review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. (Tr. 5). On September 5, 2014, the Appeals Council denied this request for review. (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff then filed the present appeal on November 3, 2014. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on February 17, 2015. ECF No. 8. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 16, 17. This case is now ready for decision.
2. Applicable Law:
In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. See Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after reviewing the record, it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ must be affirmed. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines a "physical or mental impairment" as "an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
To determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the claimant is presently engaged in a "substantial gainful activity"; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities; (3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform. See Cox, 160 F.3d at ...